We sit in wingback chairs near the door. Soft light caresses a crimson couch on the opposite side of the room. Every square inch of the place is plush, thick with luxury, and we like it. Scoring an invitation to be in the presence of artists, novelists, dignitaries, well, who would pass up such an opportunity? Certainly not anyone hoping to taste, just once, the sweet delights offered by our gracious hostess, Edna Ravensbrook, heiress to not one, but two family fortunes.
Edna made money the old-fashioned way. Like her mother and her mother’s mother before her, she married it. Petite and all too willing to be rescued, Edna had learned at a tender age that a rich man and his ego can be a dangerous thing if left unattended. Edna’s mother, Cecilia Weathersby Foster Sinclair, shared the secret of her success with her daughter on the morning of her third husband’s funeral. “Always be ready to give it all you’ve got to get what you want, Edna dear.”
Margery and me, we couldn’t believe it when the card came in the mail. Our names embossed in black on the crisp linen stationery. “‘Mrs. Edna Ravensbrook requests the pleasure of your company,’” Margery repeated over and over, flitting around the living room like some kind of spastic butterfly.
“Let me see it, Margery, I want to look at it.”
“See.” She thrust the prize under my nose and jerked it away like a stingy child.
“My name is on there too. Give it to me.”
“What are we going to wear? God! We better rummage through the closets and figure that out right now.” Margery dropped the invitation on the coffee table and ran down the hallway to her room.
Now, sitting in our best dresses like two jasmine scented fools, we sip tea and wait. Wait to see the elite untouchables of Wakefield Parish paraded past us, making certain we believe we are in the presence of magnificence. In they would come, I thought, with flourish and fanfare. Each announced as if they had fallen from the sky, straight from a sit-down with Saint Peter himself. My stomach churns. A metallic taste stabs the back of my throat. Adrenalin? The excitement had been almost too much to bear. No, it’s in the tea. But why? What could possibly be gained from such a ruthless act? Margery clutches my arm. She is pale. Her cup makes a dull thud on the floor, and in an instant I realize what is happening. A man approaches us. His jaw set, his dark eyes flash, first at Margery then at me as if fierce daggers pierce him from behind. Enda is on his heels.
“This woman is not well,” he says.
“She isn’t? What seems to be her problem?” Enda’s questions cold and insincere like the stone scarcely pulsing in her chest.
“Why did you invite Margery and me here? What do you want with us?”
“You are too much. Much too much. Too sweet. Too innocent. Too trusting for your own good. Someone had to stop you,” Edna gloats, shaking her boney finger in Margery’s face.
“Stop me from what?” Margery gasped.
“Stop you from taking what belongs to me.”
“What belongs to you?” I hissed. My blood beginning to boil.
“The world. This world that I have made for myself.”
The man slid his arms around Margery and lifted her from the chair.
“I love her, Mother. You can’t stop that!” He shouted as he rushed toward the door; Margery limp in his outstretched arms. I choked and stumbled behind them.
“Leave then, dammit! And don’t ever come back!”
Margery, we discovered, was both secret love and mortal enemy of people she’d never met. She was sickened that her eagerness had enabled their bitter folly, but she got over it.
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